The Sleep Environment

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and bedding materials selected by the sleeper. In general, most sleep scientists believe that a slightly cool room contributes to good sleep. That's because it mimics what occurs inside the body when the body's internal temperature drops during the night to its lowest level. (For good sleepers, this occurs about four hours after they begin sleeping.)

What to do:

In general, sleep scientists recommend keeping your room slightly cool -- Turning the thermostat down at night in cold weather sets the stage for sleep and saves on fuel bills. Blankets, comforters or electric blankets can lock in heat without feeling too heavy or confining. Or the heat-seeking partner might dress in warmer bedclothes while the warmer partner might opt not to wear sleep clothes or bed covering. A room that's too hot can also be disruptive. In fact, research suggests that a hot sleeping environment leads to more wake time and lighter sleep at night, while awakenings multiply. An air conditioner or fan can help, and a humidifier can provide relief if you're suffering from a sore throat or dryness in your nose.

 

Light

Much of our sleep patterns – feeling sleepy at night and awake during the day – are regulated by light and darkness. Light - strong light, like bright outdoor light (which is brighter than indoor light even on cloudy days) - is the most powerful regulator of our circadian rhythms , or biological clock. The biological clock influences when we feel sleepy and when we feel alert. As a result, finding the balance of light and darkness exposure is important. Bright light helps to keep you awake during the day, but in the evening prior to sleep, bright lights can be disturbing.

What to do:

Make sure to expose yourself to enough bright light during the day. Find time for sunlight, or purchase a lightbox or light visor to supplement your exposure to bright light. At bedtime, think dark: a dark bedroom contributes to better sleep. Try light blocking curtains, shades or blinds. If you find yourself waking earlier than you'd like, try increasing your